Last Thursday, October 17th, a significant posse of poets gathered in the upstairs room of The Wheatsheaf pub in Fitzrovia (once the haunt of Dylan Thomas, Augustus John and other notables) to celebrate the achievements of Slow Dancer Press and mark twenty years since it closed its metaphorical doors. They came, the poets, not just from the metropolis and various parts of the UK, but, in the case of the redoubtable Norbert Hirschhorn, from the further reaches of USA. Well, Minnesota.
The full line-up was as follows: Matthew Caley, Jill Dawson, Sue Dymoke, Rebecca Goss, Norbert Hirschhorn, Libby Houston, Peter Sansom, Ruth Valentine, Jackie Wills and Tamar Yoseloff. All read and reminisced a little, in a number of cases thanking Slow Dancer for publishing them at a crucial time in their writing lives. Liz Simcock sang and played and both Simon Armitage and Kirsty Gunn, sadly unable to attend, sent recorded messages.
The genesis of the press – which in its twenty years published 45 pamphlet collections, 13 books of poetry and 9 of fiction, in addition to 30 issues of Slow Dancer magazine [details here …. } – lay in the Arvon Foundation centre at Totleigh Barton in Devon, which was where I first met Slow Dancer’s co-founder and American editor, Alan Brooks, and the idea of publishing our own magazine was formed. It was also where I met the inimitable Libby Houston, who, both through her work and in person, was an early and lasting inspiration. How good it was to hear her reading again on Thursday!
For memorial reasons, I’ve read, to myself and, occasionally, aloud to assembled others, a lot of Frank O’Hara this year. I read quite a lot of O’Hara most years. And I’ve read a little Robert Hass more days than not.
This list recognises the other poetry collections I’ve read and enjoyed most in the past twelve months.
Rachael Allen : Faber New Poets 9 (2014)
Edwina Attlee : The Cream (Clinic, 2016)
Sam Buchan-Watts : Faber New Poets 15 (2016)
Matthew Caley : Rake (Bloodaxe, 2016)
Maura Dooley : The Silvering (Bloodaxe, 2016)
Janet Fisher : Life and Other Terms (Shoestring, 2015)
Marilyn Hacker : A Stranger’s Mirror (Norton, 2015)
Lee Harwood : The Books (Longbarrow Press, 2011)
Ian McMillan : Jazz Peas (Smith/Doorstop, 2014)
Helen Mort : No Map Could Show Them (Chatto, 2016)
Peter Sansom : Careful What You Wish For (Carcanet, 2015)
Judi Sutherland & Jim Burns : Dark Matter (The Black Light Engine Room Press, 2016)
Barry Wallenstein : Drastic Dislocations (New York Quarterly Boks, 2012)
Matthew Welton : The Number Poems (Carcanet, 2016)
I’m pleased to be reading on the opening night of both the Bodmin Moor Poetry Festival (Friday, May 27th) and the Derby Book Festival (Friday, June 3rd).
The Bodmin Moor Festival takes place (a tad confusingly?) in Liskeard, at Sterts Theatre, Upton Cross, and the opening reading, which I’m sharing with Welsh poet and Picador author, Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch, runs from 6.30 to 8.00pm.
The second Derby Book Festival runs from 3 – 11 June and to close out the first evening I shall be in the CUBE Café / Bar at Déda in the Cathedral Quarter, doing my poetry and jazz thing with the pretty marvellous Blue Territory. There’ll be bits and pieces from the Resnick novels and poems from the recent Smith/Doorstop collection, Out of Silence.
Earlier that evening, in the same venue, 6.00 – 7.00pm, the fine poet Helen Mort will be reading from her new collection from Penguin, No Map Could Show Them, poems about mountains and the people who climb them.
And if you’re in or around Nottingham on Wednesday, May 18th you shouldn’t miss the chance to hear Matthew Caley reading from his fifth collection, Rake, together with Mark Waldron, reading from Meanwhile, Trees, both published by Bloodaxe Books.